Monday, June 02, 2014

Stone Soup study club 10 / 石頭湯讀書會之十


The tenth speaker of the Stone Soup study club is the renowned Taiwanese author and illustrator, Mr. Wang Gin-hsuen. The book Red Turtle Cake, a collection of children's poetry written in Taiwanese written by Mr. Wang, is a classic in children's literature here in Taiwan. In fact, the book is also a great way to learn basic Taiwanese. 


Before the speech, Mr. Wang welcomes every guest at the door, asking what our names are. I mention the lessons I  learned while attending the award ceremony of Hsin-y Children's Book Foundation in April. Since he was also there that day, he immediately shares his own life experiences with me. Mr. Wang says that he's loved drawing since childhood, but meanwhile he was aware of his weakness in writing, which inspired him to practice, especially writing children's poetry. Amazingly, his first book is actually a collection of children's poetry. Then, it occurred to him to write children's poems in Taiwanese, and his works received rave reviews. However, he never gave up drawing, and as time went by, he finally had opportunities to write and illustrate his own works. The talk teaches me that I should try different media whether words or images instead of excluding any possibility. 


During the talk, Mr. Wang focuses on his career as a writer and illustrator and teaches us basic skills of writing and drawing. I have to say that this is certainly an extremely inspirational talk. I am going to divide the key points of his talk into two main categories: 


1. Never stop writing and drawing. I do it simply because I love it. I fill my journal with words because I write down whatever comes to mind.
2. Don't brood over my failures for too long. I go over my works to see how I can do better, and I'll work harder next time.
3. If we want to move people, we have to be involved. It's important for the viewer/reader to feel our sincerity.
4. Seize opportunities: I once created two picture books within four days!
5. As long as we are encouraged, we can go on and on and on!
6. One of the best tips in making progress is researching others' works.


1. Try writing children's poetry: First, look for what's in common between two objects which appear to be different. Read a poem aloud after finishing it. Whichever language we write in, it helps to look for the rhyming words. We can derive ideas for children's poems from children's folk rhymes, children songs, nursery rhymes, and doggerels. It's essential to make sure if our writing is easily understandable, approachable, lively and natural. Whenever I am invited to write a poem, I'll write several as part of the exercise.
2. Fun: The key spirit of children's literature is its fun.
3. Children's songs are the outline of children's tales. Develop the songs into stories with main characters, settings, dialogs and educational value. Yet, the skills of writing tales and picture books are the same--there has to be a beginning, rising action, climax and resolution.
4. We can insert life experiences and add imagined plots in the creation of picture books.
5. When it comes to images, they can tell stories whether mentioned or not mentioned in the text. Also, we can draw the settings.
6. All the shapes and forms in the world can be broken down into basic geometric forms.
7. The images in picture books do not have to be especially sophisticated in terms of skills. In fact, the pictures are explanatory, and they should come with the idiosyncratic qualities of the illustrator.
8. Drawing is about its aesthetic value and the patience of the artist. If we are not good, our patience can move the viewer as well. When it's time to draw realistically, we should go for it. Nonetheless, we should also know when and how to relax.


Mr. Wang doesn't hesitate to show his originals. Before the final draft, there are always endless trials and errors. I can feel behind his sunny optimism lies a super self-demanding and persevering soul. 


After the talk, I tell Mr. Wang that I am experiencing the first half of his story, which is full of frustrations and failures. He encourages to keep drawing, which really gives me loads of positive energy!

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